Several years ago, I introduced myself to a guest at our Saturday night service. There was something very familiar about this person and so I said “You look so familiar to me, have we met before?” Their response was “no, I don’t believe we have.” I couldn’t let it go. So I said, “Oh, I think I met you in jail a few months ago.” She said “I was just released yesterday.” Now that I had inserted my foot in my mouth I had to stick with it and simply said “well, I’m glad you are here tonight…”
Unfortunately, I have been behind the doors of more than a few prisons over the last 30 years of my adult life. On two occasions I have accompanied individuals that I would consider friends, to surrender themselves to authorities. One to be confined in a federal prison in Illinois and another to the county jail. Both had children. Both had made a mistake, but took responsibility for their mistake, and accepted the punishment.
Like the majority of people, maybe you have never experienced the inside of a jail cell, but there are other prisons, aren’t there? There are other chains that we have all encountered.
There are three kinds of chains present in all of our lives: Chains that come from Our Nature – Our own sinful nature. Sinful Choices - we find ourselves chained by the choices we have made. And there are the chains that come from Our Nurture – Hurtful examples. The chains created by a lack of appropriate nurturing are very real.
For every Lie the chains in our lives whisper to us, surrendering our lives to Jesus Christ and living out the Victory, is the foundation for being liberated from every chain.
This weekend’s encounter in Acts Chapter 16, verse 19 reveals God’s plan for breaking these chains in our lives today. We pick up in the life of two men in prison for sharing their faith. They were literally stripped, beaten, chained to the floor in the inner most cell and assigned a 24 hour guard. What would you do? Paul and Silas take their chains to God and Acknowledge God as the ultimate chain breaker by calling on the name of Jesus.
Have you tapped into that power when it comes to the chains in your life? Do you know that no matter your nurturing, no matter your choices or those choices other made for you, do you know that even your sin nature don’t have to keep you from God through Jesus Christ? You can come to God right now.
Paul and Silas turned to God and as they worshiped God, verse 26 says “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors few open, and everybody’s chains came loose.”
Here is the second point of their encounter that we need to understand. When I worship and praise God, things are shaken up in and around me and chains fall off.
When we praise God, breakthrough, deliverance and transformation happens. This is a promise, this is a guarantee. Jesus said in John 4:24 that “God is Spirit”. 2 Corinthians 3:17 says “the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”. And so when we praise God, when we acknowledge God, we invite His presence to be with us. And in his presence we find freedom.
Paul and Silas, as they sat chained in their prison cell, as they prayed and acknowledged God’s presence right there with them, verse 25 says “the other prisoners were listening to them.” You want to see the lives of your children transformed? You want to see your daughters develop a new self image, you want to see your sons show respect, you want to feel a part of something bigger than you, you want to put anxiety and depression behind you? Then you start praising God, you start lining your life up with Him, you go all-in and quit sitting on the side lines, you stop complaining about the chains you find yourself in, and start thinking about what God wants to do through this season in your life, and you will feel the ground shake around you.
Now, one last thing we will look at in our time together is this: Stay close to the One who set you free.
When you have been set free and are trying to rebuild your life, there is always an opportunity to go back to the way things were before, to have a relapse, to become chained again. As believers, let’s be clear about this. When you have been set free and are trying to rebuild your life in the Lord, the enemy, the adversary, Satan will come and tell you, “You weren’t really set free…. You’re still the same old messed up person you always were. You haven’t been transformed. Or, He will tell you “You got this…” “Meetings aren’t necessary any more.” “Go enjoy the fruit of your labor at the new job…. God wants you to be happy. Missing one Sunday won’t hurt anything….”
When you start hearing those kinds of messages, recognize where they are coming from and remember Who it is that set you free and begin praising him all the more. Romans 6:11 says: “Count yourself dead to sin but alive to God. Don’t let sin reign in your body so you obey its evil desires. Don’t offer the parts of your body to sin, but rather offer yourselves to God!” (Romans 6:11-13)(NIV)
Paul and Silas, they didn’t forget the one who set them free. They knew that God had a purpose in all of this, a plan, a will for their lives. And so they didn’t run, they stayed and verse 32 says “they spoke the word of the Lord to the prison guard.” He said to them “what must I do to be saved? What must I do to be set free from the chains in my own life? And they said “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household. And in the middle of the night, the jailer washed Paul and Silas’s wounds and then he and all his family were baptized.
Is it really that simple? It is. But it is also that complex. Your encounter awaits you. Bring your chains to the ultimate chain breaker. I look forward to seeing you this Saturday at 5:30 and Sunday at 10:30.